The Democratic candidate for state treasurer wants the office actively involved in auditing the spending of state agencies.
Andrei Cherny acknowledged the prime role of the treasurer is to manage the state's money and its investments.
"But the treasurer has a fiduciary duty to make sure that those dollars are being well spent,'' he said during a televised debate Wednesday night on KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate. And that, he said, means auditing how the money is being spent.
That suggestion drew derision from Republican Doug Ducey who said the 30-person office lacks the staff to do that kind of work. He also said the state has a separate Auditor General's Office to conduct those kinds of reviews, with the Attorney General's Office also responsible for overseeing that money is not misspent.
Ducey also saw possible mischief in such a plan.
"My concern is if an elected official starts auditing other elected officials,'' he said. Ducey said he instead would do more to make state spending more transparent and let the voters decide whether they like how their money is being spent.
Cherny, however, said that level of detail is not available. He particularly singled out the Legislature and the governor's office as agencies that have not had anyone combing through their spending in more than a decade.
The result, he said, is the Legislature spending $46,000 last year renovating a meeting room, $3,500 on new artwork and $6,000 on new chairs.
Libertarian Thane Eichenauer sided more with Ducey on the issue, saying he does not see a role for the treasurer in reviewing spending by state officials and agencies.
"I think that's what the voters are for,'' he said.
Much of the half-hour debate was punctuated by the contenders from the two main parties attacking each other's background.
Cherny said that Ducey was late in paying property taxes on his home, twice, before finally writing a check this year when he announced his bid for treasurer. Ducey conceded the point, calling it an oversight but saying he now is current.
He, in turn, chided Cherny for his links to various national Democrats, calling him a "Washington insider.'' That included his role as co-author of Obama's campaign policy book, "Change We Can Believe In.''
"If people like what Barack Obama is doing to America's economy, they're going to love what Andrei has planned for Arizona,'' Ducey said.
Cherny sought to minimize his role in that plan.
"Obviously, that was Barack Obama's ideas,'' he said after the debate. "I offered my advice.''
That, however, did not stop Cherny, in his official bio, from claiming credit as co-author of the plan.
Cherny said his real background is as a prosecutor for the state attorney general's office, working on cases of financial fraud and corporate crime.
Ducey cited his own experience in business, including being the chief executive officer of Scottsdale-based Cold Stone Creamery during its period of expansion before it was sold in 2007. He now runs iMemories which transfers videocasettes, movies and photographs to DVDs.
Cherny had run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in California. But he said he is not an opportunist, moving to Arizona to marry a fourth-generation state native.